Monday, October 20, 2014

Yale Educator Award

Stratford High School counselor Darrell Pickard has been named a 2014 Yale Educator Award recipient based on a nominating essay written by recent grad Nathaniel Barbour. Barbour was a campus co-valedictorian at Stratford last May.
Pickard, who has been at the high school since 1996, was one of 30 counselors and 53 teachers chosen nationally to receive the Yale University award. Award winners were chosen by committee.

Pickard and other winners were sent engraved desk sets and congratulatory letters by the Ivy League university, which consistently ranks as one the nation’s best.

Barbour transferred into Stratford High as a sophomore after his family moved to Houston. Pickard worked on his course schedule, and encouraged him every time that they met or saw each other.

“Over the following weeks, each time he saw me in the hallway, he smiled and asked how I was doing. During that transition period, it was a true blessing to know that even though I had no friends in the school, there was someone who was there to support me and who wanted me to succeed,” Barbour wrote.

Barbour also nominated Pickard for his dedication to preparing all students for post-secondary success, ranging from a 50-page student planning guide to a self-edited website and links, and hundreds of letters written on behalf of students. (Read Barbour’s nomination here)

Nathaniel Barbour’s nomination:

If someone were to ask me who has influenced my life the most, and I could not respond with the name of a family member, then I would without hesitation respond with “Mr. Darrell Pickard.”  When my family moved to Houston, Texas three years ago, Mr. Pickard warmly welcomed me into his office to assist me in crafting a course schedule.  After reviewing my transcript from my previous school, he confidently told me that he was certain that I would succeed at Stratford and that he would do his best to help me in that effort.  Over the following weeks, each time he saw me in the hallway, he smiled and asked how I was doing.  During that transition period, it was a true blessing to know that even though I had no friends in the school, there was someone who was there to support me and who wanted me to succeed.

Not only has Mr. Pickard welcomed new students like myself to the Stratford community, but he has also dedicated hundreds of hours to preparing students for life after high school.  He wrote a comprehensive post-secondary planning guide of over fifty pages in length that brought life beyond high school into focus for many of us.  He also manages a counseling website that holds a wealth of resources on both the college admissions process and employment opportunities.  This past year, as senior counselor, Mr. Pickard carefully composed hundreds of counselor evaluation letters to colleges on behalf of my class, compiled and emailed lists of pertinent scholarship opportunities, and resolved complicated scheduling conflicts, all while maintaining highly accessible office hours.  Without Mr. Pickard's key advice and information, both high school and the college application process would have been significantly more difficult.  I am forever grateful for his passionate efforts.

Speaking with Darrell Pickard:

He’s a U.S. Air Force veteran: Pickard has 20 years of classroom teaching and instruction in the Air Force and Spring Branch ISD. A master instructor, he taught Air Force ROTC at UT-Austin for several years. In 1994, he joined SBISD and two years later, he began teaching at Stratford, his campus home ever since. He joined the Stratford counseling team in 2008.

“Teaching was very rewarding to me, but many students would talk to me about all the stress in their lives. I realized over some time that I wanted do more than teach content in the classroom. I went from teaching young people to helping them. . . . Getting paid to help people be successful? What more can you ask for in life?”

Human psychology trumped marine biology. At Texas A&M University, Pickard thought that he might be a marine biologist until he took a psychology class. “That subject was amazing to me. I was fascinated by the brain and by psychology, and that has led to where I am today.”

On Stratford High: “The people here are family, and the people at Stratford are so dedicated to students. This is not just a job for the people who work here and that makes it special.”

The Yale Educator Award: “I’m so humbled by what Nathaniel wrote. In my mind, this is really a reflection of him. For a college freshman at Yale to take the time to nominate me for this award speaks to what a great Yale student he is, and he will be. Nathaniel will be a great individual and a great leader.”

On student counseling: “Every student has different dreams. It’s not my job to tell them what to do, but to help them get to where they want to go.”

On Texas colleges. “There is social pressure for students to say that they want to go to [Texas] A&M and UT. Students are often influenced by others, but we have many smaller colleges and universities in Texas, and they are often overlooked. We have Sam Houston State, Lamar, Navarro College, and West Texas A&M University to name a few. I want students to look beyond just the big schools. Smaller colleges can offer the same quality of education as the big universities.”

Career choices: “Students grasp where the most money is. My career choice does not pay a lot, but it is so very rewarding. Some students think that they will not be happy unless they make a certain amount of money, or are in a certain occupation. STEM careers are popular, but one strength for Stratford, I think, is the variety of people and groups that we have here. Being in fine arts or being in journalism at Stratford is considered cool. People are not afraid to be in what they like here.”


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